U. S. Business Group
Promotes Teaching as a Profession

Now that U. S. business has taken a hand in promoting professionalism in teaching, there is a strong impetus to boost the resources that are dedicated to the education, pay and ongoing professional development of teachers in the United States.

By Lois Browne

The Washington-based National Alliance of Business (NAB) recently released its report Investing in Teaching as the opening salvo in a campaign “to turn the job of teaching into a profession,” says NAB senior vice-president Linda Rosen. The move by business to get involved in promoting improvements in education by raising the status of the teaching profession is groundbreaking, says Rosen. NAB is one of a number of business groups that contributed to the development of Investing in Teaching, as well as teachers, policymakers and faculty.

The report recommends action to raise levels of teacher preparation and professional development, increase salaries to match other professions and create a professional environment that draws on teachers’ expertise. The report was released at the end of January along with news of plans to lobby federal and state officials on legislation and spending that will support the NAB plan. The initiative in the U.S. is good news for teachers everywhere, says College Registrar Joe Atkinson. “The establishment of the Ontario College of Teachers was a recognition of the professionalism of teaching and we welcome any initiative that supports the important role that teachers play in quality education,” says Atkinson. “The teaching profession everywhere benefits from the growing acceptance of the idea that dedicating more resources to help teachers do their job will have a direct benefit on student learning.”

G O O D      T E A C H I N G      K E Y

“One of the strong background factors in this business initiative,” says Rosen, “is the Department of Education’s 1998 estimate that by 2008 the U.S. will need 2.2 million new teachers in order to compensate for retirements.” Another is the recent research that has shown the strong relationship between student achievement and teacher quality.

The NAB report says that business leaders have been working to encourage “clearer and higher standards, assessments, and accountability for student learning in every school” and are encouraged by progress being made across the U.S. But “raising standards is only the first step...Without high quality teachers, our efforts to improve student achievement are destined to fail.” The NAB agenda focuses on three elements of the teaching profession. The business group recommends improvements in teacher preparation and professional development, significant salary increases and other forms of compensation such as career advancement, and that a new school environment be created that would allow teachers to better use their professional judgement and expertise.

M O R E      F U N D I N G

These changes envision a number of additional initiatives – more funding and time allotted for professional development, recognition for excellent teaching that includes certification for master teachers, the development of new career paths for classroom teachers, additional resources such as office space and technology that help teachers do a better job, and the development of portable teaching licences. These changes should not come without additional demands on teachers, says the NAB report. Better pre-service and in-service training require higher admission standards and rigorous testing before licensing, and higher salaries should be based on performance.

Rosen says there are a number of things that the NAB wants to see develop in all states over the next few years. “We need to retain teachers in the classroom and stop the revolving door. We need to ramp up recruitment efforts and promote the notion that teaching is a desirable profession,” she says. Beginning teachers are often given the toughest schedules and the toughest students, says Rosen. And as teachers gain experience, they tend to progress professionally by becoming a guidance counsellor or an administrator. Teachers ought to be able to find ways to move up the career ladder without leaving the classroom, perhaps by mentoring new teachers or becoming master teachers with additional responsibilities.

S T A T E S      I N T E R E S T E D

Rosen reports that the NAB has distributed its report to all state governors and a number of states have already expressed an interest in learning how they can move ahead with some of the recommendations. Another outcome of the report, she says, has been the formation of the Business Coalition for Excellence in Education, a coalition of 60 business groups that has dedicated itself to play a constructive role in federal initiatives for K-12 education reform.

The ideas expressed in Investing in Teaching are not new. For years other interests have called for changes that would elevate the status of teaching. But many believe that the clout of the business sector can exercise more influence on the federal and state officials who can bring about the legislative changes and provide the additional resources that would make these changes possible. How will things progress? “If the past predicts the future,” says Rosen, “a handful of states will lay out the blueprint for change that will influence other states to act.” NAB has 5,000 members which include businesses, CEOs, educators and business-led coalitions. NAB members include Johnson and Johnson, Xerox Corporation, Prudential Insurance Company of America, Corning Inc. and IBM. It is the only national business organization in the U.S. that focuses on increasing student achievement and improving the competitiveness of the workforce.

For more information and a copy of Investing in Teaching, visit the NAB web site at www.nab.com.

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